One hour per day outdoors time was ensured for each detainee, and education and religious life also resumed despite the epidemic at the Szeged Strict and Medium Regime Prison. Furthermore, almost all of the detainees used the possibility of keeping contact on the internet, or communicated with their relatives on the phone, as was established by the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights, Dr Ákos Kozma.

On 15 May 2020, the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights, acting in his competence as OPCAT National Preventive Mechanism (NPM), paid a visit to the Szeged Strict and Medium Regime Prison (hereinafter: the “Institution”), with two of his colleagues. The inquiry was focused on the measures taken for the prevention of the coronavirus pandemic and the modes of communication meant to replace the reception of visitors by the detainees. The members of the Ombudsman’s visiting group took count of the protective gear available for the staff and the detainees and the conditions of keeping personal hygiene, furthermore, they conducted interviews with the management of the Institution, the detainees and the members of the staff.

In his report on Case No. AJB-2726/2020, Dr Ákos Kozma exposed that the one-hour per day outdoors time was ensured for each detainee. It was one of the good practices of the Institution that education and religious life also resumed despite the epidemic. Several small-group activities on religious topics were organised for the detainees to ensure that no one was left out. At some of the units of the Institution, it would have been obligatory to hold psychological group sessions pursuant to the provisions set out in Bvtv (Act CCXL of 2013 on the Execution of Punishments, Criminal Measures, Certain Coercive Measures and Confinement for Administrative Offences) but these were suspended due to the virus threat. The NPM stated that it would have been justified to organise these activities in small groups, similarly to the group sessions on religion.

Almost all of the detainees used the possibility of keeping contact on the internet, or they communicated with their relatives on the phone. The detainees highly appreciated the former option, and by taking the favourable experiences into account, the NPM established that it would make sense for the National Headquarters of the Hungarian Prison Service (BVOP) to continue ensuring this form of communication
for the detainees. The Commissioner for Fundamental Rights requested the National Commander of the Hungarian Prison Service to take measures for ensuring the detainees the option of communication on the internet in the future too. Furthermore, he requested the commander of the Institution to ensure the organisation of the obligatory group activities (under Bvtv) at the curative-therapeutic, psychosocial, and drug prevention units, at the Chronic After- Care Unit, as well as for first-time offenders, at the time of the pandemic too, if possible.

For the report, please click on the following link: AJB-2726/2020.